James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Pinkney, 5 June 1808

London. June 5th. 1808.


I have already had the Honor to suggest, in ⟨o⟩ne of my private Letters, that I have not thought ⟨i⟩t necessary to trouble you with an account of the different applications, in behalf of Individuals, ⟨o⟩r upon Matters of small Importance, which I have made to this Government. I supposed it was sufficient to say in general that they were well received. There is one of these applications, however, with which you ought to be made acquainted; because it involves a principle of public Law, & has hitherto (after a Lapse of several Months) been without Success.

The Case to which I allude is that of three Frenchmen (Pontevos, Lachaderede and Dusourd); and will be sufficiently explained by a copy of my Note of the 18th. of Feby. last to Mr. Canning, herewith enclosed. It was supposed, when that note was prepared, that the Detention of these Persons arose out of some Misapprehension; but it afterwards appeared that the Transport Board, looking to the Conduct of France on the Subject of Prisoners (which is considered here as extravagantly unjust in all its Parts) had given it their Sanction, and that such Detentions were meant to be persisted in.

I was repeatedly told, after my Note had been received, that Mr. Canning was satisfied that the Prisoners ought to be released, and I had verbal assurances from Time to Time that they shd. be released. It has lately been suggest⟨ed⟩ however, that the Transport Board adhere to their Determination, & that it is not certain that the Discharge will be ordered. It is sa⟨id⟩ also that a Discharge is in Fact impossible; ⟨   ⟩ that, according to the French Practice in re⟨   ⟩ Instances, these Gentlemen would not be rece⟨ived⟩ if sent over in a Cartel, and that they cou⟨ld⟩ not be suffered to be more at large in thi⟨s⟩ Country than they are already. (They ar⟨e⟩ on their Parole at Tiverton.)

No written Answer has yet been given t⟨o⟩ my Note; and I do not propose to require ⟨one⟩ at present. To press formally, and with great Zeal, a Case of this Sort, might give Umbrage; and, as the general principle do⟨es⟩ not seem to be denied, & the actual Effec⟨t⟩ of the new Practice, even if persisted in cannot at the present moment be considere⟨d⟩ there is little Inducement to do so. My Efforts in another Way will I trust be successful, as the opinion at the Foreig⟨n⟩ Office is understood to be still in Fav⟨or⟩ of the application, and I have just be⟨en⟩ told that it is likely to prevail.

The osage will, I trust, have arrived long before this reaches you; as she sailed from Falmouth on the 18th. of last Month with a fair Wind. Lieut. Lewis, having written to me on the 15th., that the Instructio⟨ns⟩ from the Commrs. of the Custom relative to the Stores & to her Exemption from Port-dues &c, ha⟨d⟩ not then arrived at Falmouth, & that the collector declined to act upon the Copy of Mr. Cannings note to me & of its Enclosure (of which Lieut. Lewis had been put in Possession). I thought it well to send his Letter (in a private note from myself) to Mr. Hammond who next day sent me the Reply herewith enclosed. I have been assured that the seizing officers shall be punished; but I have not demanded it.

The Science from London to New York has, it is said, been captured by a French Privateer. An American Passenger on Board had in his Charge my private Letters to you (of no great Importance) of the 17th. of March, & of the 2d; & 5th., of April, together with Packets of Newspapers, Pamphlets &c. I now send a Duplicate of one of these Letters, rather because I happen to find it prepared, than because it contains any Thing of Consequence.

The Memorandum of Books, to which you refer me in a late Letter, cannot be found. The annual Register & Edinburgh Review shall be sent by the first Opportunity.

Mr. Adams’s Reply to Mr. Pickering’s extraordinary Letter to Govr. Sullivan has been republished here in the form of a Pamphlet. I thank you for your private Letters of the 4th. & 8th. of April. I have the Honor to be with sincere Respect & Attachme⟨nt⟩ Dear Sir, Your most Obedie⟨nt⟩ Humble Servan⟨t⟩

Wm. Pinkney

P. S. I am at present without a Secreta⟨ry⟩ and am not inclined to take one, unle⟨ss⟩ the Government thinks it necessary. ⟨My⟩ Son was my Secy. while he remained here. I do not know what the Rule ⟨is⟩ but, if you can with Propriety allow ⟨me⟩ to take the Salary of a Secretary, an⟨d⟩ by Means of it, to employ a Clerk, wh⟨o⟩ will do as I bid him, & give me n⟨o⟩ Trouble, you will acccomodate me by doing so. I think Mr. King did ⟨so.⟩ But I will take any Course you thi⟨nk⟩ best.

P S. You will perceive by the enclosed from Mr. Can⟨ning⟩ that the St. Michael ⟨is⟩ arrived at L’Orient; but, if the ⟨French⟩ Govt. adopts the same Course with ⟨her⟩ as in the Case of the Osage, she ⟨will⟩ not arrive at Falmouth for some ⟨Weeks.⟩ I find I have missed the oppy. of writing by the ⟨Packet.⟩

Mr. Fox’s historical Work has been published. I will send you a Copy for the Department of State by the St. Michael.

DNA: RG 59--DD-Diplomatic Despatches, Great Britain.

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